From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Kaw-Liga is a proto-rockabilly song written by Hank Williams and Fred Rose. Backed by the Drifting Cowboys, Hank Williams recorded the song in Nashville in September, 1952 and the single was released posthumously in January 1953 on the MGM Records label. It remained No. 1 on the Billboard Country chart for 14 weeks and reached No. 23 on the pop charts. The flipside, "Your Cheatin' Heart, remained No. 1 on the country chart for 6 weeks.
"Kaw-Liga" is a song about a wooden Indian, Kaw-Liga, who falls in love with an "Indian maid over in the antique store" but does not tell her so, being, as the lyrics say:
- Too stubborn to ever show a sign,
- Because his heart was made of knotty pine.
The Indian maid waits for Kaw-Liga to signal his affection for her, but he either refuses or is physically/emotionally unable (interpretations vary) to talk, ever the stoical Native American of the popular stereotype. Because of his stubbornness, Kaw-Liga's love continues to be unrequited, with Hank Williams, the narrator/singer of the song lamenting,
- Poor ol Kaw-liga, he never got a kiss,
- Poor ol Kaw-liga, he don't know what he missed,
- Is it any wonder that his face is red?
- Kaw-liga, that poor ol' wooden head.
The song ends with the Indian maid being bought and taken away from the antique store by a buyer, leaving Kaw-Liga alone,
- As lonely as can be,
- And wishes he was still an ol' pine tree.
- Kaw-Liga (The Residents) A cover version